Great Fire of '47
No one knows exactly how it started, but they know where… in a cranberry bog near Salisbury Cove, and they know when… on October 17, 1947.
The summer had been exceptionally dry, seasoned for burning. But after three days, the fire had consumed only 169 acres. Islanders breathed a sigh of relief.
Then, on October 21, the fire intensified. Winds came up, fanning the flames. Powerful gusts and gales forced the fire every which way—along Eagle Lake and toward Hulls Cove—spreading the damage across more than 2,000 acres.
When it seemed things couldn't get any worse, the firestorm escalated and headed into Bar Harbor. There was no stopping it. In just three hours, a three-mile wide swath of flames traveled six miles into downtown. It totally devastated vast sections of Bar Harbor, incinerating 67 summer cottages, 5 grand hotels, and 170 year-round homes. It cut off all roads out of town, trapping vacationers and residents, as it raced toward Otter Point, destroying The Jackson Laboratory on its way.
The fire ended an era. Few of the grand homes were rebuilt, and many of the summer people did not return. But Bar Harbor bounced back, embarking on a new era. Today, Bar Harbor remains a highly desirable destination for vacationers worldwide.
Firefighters, assisted by the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and a host of volunteers, struggled to contain the blaze. From across the eastern United States, National Park Service employees arrived to help. But the fire had a mind of its own.